Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Links to the Menopause
On 1st October and we recognise Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a worldwide campaign to support those who are living with breast cancer.
Every October the world comes together in a sea of pink to help fight this terrible disease which is so prevalent in our society.
Why do we have Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
In the UK alone over 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and one in eight women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. A little known fact is that 350 men are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK.
There are many factors responsible for the development of breast cancer and in some cases the disease may be genetic but one of the most common causes attributed to this illness is the ageing process whereby at least 4 out of 5 breast cancers occur in women over 50.
What is the link between menopause and Breast Cancer?
The fact that a high percentage of women over 50 develop breast cancer means that links are made to the menopause, not only that but some breast cancer treatment such as hormone therapies tamoxifen, anastrozole, letrozole and exemestane can often lead women to experience menopausal symptoms.
Ovarian suppression is the process of stopping the ovaries from making oestrogen either temporarily or permanently as part of some cancer treatments which can also result in the menopause being triggered. There are instances where women have already been through the menopause naturally only to go through it again. The natural menopause is a gradual process whereas ovarian suppression can bring on menopausal symptoms very quickly and therefore may be more intense than someone entering the menopause naturally. While some women find the symptoms to be manageable many find it difficult to cope and their quality of life is impacted.
Patients who have not been through their natural menopause and are exposed to Chemotherapy might see their periods stopping as the ovaries producing oestrogen are affected by the treatment. It is possible that women’s periods can return but this could take several months or years after the Chemotherapy has finished.
Cancer sufferers can sometimes find that they become forgetful and lose concentration sometimes referred to as ”brain fog”, in similar ways many women who are menopausal suffer similar symptoms finding it harder to remember and recall things as well as they did in their youth as the reduction in oestrogen during menopause does impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the brain.
How has Breast Cancer Awareness helped?
More women than ever are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better screening and better treatments. Around five out of six women diagnosed in the UK today will be alive in five years’ time, compared to three out of six women 40 years ago. However, nearly 1,000 women still die of breast cancer every month in the UK. Women aged 50 and over are entitled to free breast screening and first appointments should be made between the age of 50 and 53 with regular follow up visits every 3 years up to the age of 70.
How can I stay vigilant?
Most breast cancers are found by women noticing unusual changes in their bodies and our message is not just for today or this month but to ALWAYS be breast aware and take the initiative and visit the doctor. A healthy regime can also help combat this disease and information is extensive on this subject drinking less alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight all help to reduce the risks.